There is a certain happiness sighted when your bus comes along. It is of course a small specialized form of happiness and will never be a great thing.

-Richard Brautigan, The Old Bus

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Guy things

Are American flags a guy thing?

At the Watt and Whitney stop this morning, the No. 82 bus picked up -- literally -- a heavyset guy in a motorized wheelchair and deposited him in the coach. As he was maneuvering his chair using his tiny joystick, I noticed the American flag on a stick planted in the top of his seat back. It wasn't a big flag, certainly nothing like the guy I wrote about back here. No, the flagpole was about a foot tall and the flag a fitting size. If the flag were hair on a woman, it would be said to fall to her shoulders.

This puzzle only temporarily distracted me from my book, but a few minutes later something captured unconsciously in my peripheral vision prompted me to look up. There on the northeast corner of Alta Arden and Morse was another guy riding in a motorized wheelchair. And he had the same size American flag flying from a foot-tall wooden stick stuck in his wheelchair seat back.

Now even this coincidence would not have troubled me much if it had not been for what I saw at the 16th Street light rail station. I had taken the train past my normal 23rd Street stop so I could go to Safeway on my way to work. As I walked past the handicap boarding ramp, I saw a woman in a motorized wheelchair waiting for the next train out of town. Without staring, I studied her and her chair. As I walked around the ramp and down 16th Street, I turned and looked back.

No flag.

Perhaps guys reduced to relying on a tiny joystick to maneuver feel compelled to compensate with flag-waving bravado.

Yes, we'll rally round the flag, boys
Rally once again,
Shouting the Battle Cry of Freedom
We will rally from the hillside
We'll gather from the plains,
Shouting the Battle Cry of Freedom!
Some guy things are a puzzle even to guys.


ByJane said...

Ummmm, maybe they're in chairs because they were injured in a war. Maybe they're vets. Ya think?

John said...

The guy I saw on the street might have been from The Greatest Generation or, failing that, a veteran of The Forgotten War.

But the first big guy in a chair with a little flag waving in his electric-powered breeze? Nah.

Still, what does attaching a flag to a wheelchair have to do with being a veteran? I avoided the draft in 1971 by joining the U.S. Navy. The Navy, in turn, provided me with a tour of Asian seaports and brothels whenever I wasn't floating about at Yankee Station. I have a page in my service medical record that says I received a dose of the clap in the line of duty. I suppose I could fly a flag from my pole.

Personally, I prefer my flagwaving on Veterans Day and Memorial Day. Not on the bus on the way to Wal-Mart.

ByJane said...

okay, now that you've made me LOL--I'm surprised that you're surprised that the guys in wheelchairs are flying flags. I dunno: what else are they gonna fly?

John said...

Personally, I think I would install one of those old-fashioned whip antennas and a CB radio. At the tip of the antenna, I would attach a pennant, perhaps FCBarcelona. Really, if you want to show pride for something, make it an internationally recognized fĂștbol side.